Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Saturday, October 14, 2017

An embarassment of riches

So, if I complained, one of my complaints might be that I often don't have (or perhaps make) enough time for reading. I don't think I can say that right now, as my shelf is overflowing with just-reads and need-to-reads, thanks to a concatenation of circumstances: used bookstore visits, a new comic shop in the neighborhoods, a birthday, and some miscellaneous acquisitions.

Here's the rundown:

Grinding on:

At the beginning of this year, I told the story of finding this lost treasure in my paean to Henderson's Books, and I started reviewing the individual short stories on He is a Thark shortly thereafter. That project stalled, and I am sure that part of the reason was the gap between my memory of the stories and their actuality. Maybe the jaded, tired eyes of a middle-aged man can't see as clearly as teenager, or maybe the stories really aren't that good. I may take up this task again, but it might be more in nostalgia than joy.

In progress (one for a while, one for a bit):

The Sellout is a prizewinning satire of American culture and race relations; I found it exhausting to read, akin to what I imagine listening to a recitation of Howl in its entirety might be. It was lent to me by someone, so I guess I should finish it and /or give it back. Citizen is a book of poetic prose or prosey poetry with pictures, lent to me by Coco, that explores a lot of the same themes. I think this one will come back to the top of the stack; I enjoyed it but just got distracted away.

Done for a ducat, word book division:

One some visit to Henderson's when we were killing time, I fell down the rabbit hole and came back out with four books that I whipped through in short order.  

Journey to Fusang was an alternate history novel by William Sanders that I had never read. On the recent occasion of his death, I thought it would behoove me to do so. It was fantastic - the man had real genius.  In both characters and settings, this is a memorable work.

Near this novel on the shelf happened to be another alternate history - The Aquiliad, by Thai author Somtow Sucharitkul. Since I can't say no to the Roman Legion meets Native Americans sub-genre, I had to pick it up. Sucharitkul is... interesting. The book, a collection of longish short stories, is worth reading and enjoyable, but with an odd feel to it. Like a tasty drink that leaves a strange aftertaste.

Bottomlands contained one alternate worlds story I had read already (but enjoyed re-reading); its sequel, which I had not read (and enjoyed just as much); and another stand-alone alternate world tale that was a nice, tight yarn that would make a great movie (in the best sense of that compliment - I felt the same way about Arthur Clarke's Fall of Moondust).

Harry Turtledove's Supervolcano: Eruption, on the other hand, would need to be an HBO multi-season series - like every story Turtledove tells these days, this one is going to require three or four novels to conclude. I don't know why I keep reading Turtledove. I remember Gore Vidal saying something about authors having only a certain number of characters that they keep writing over and over - he put Shakespeare at something like twenty, and himself at ten or twelve. Turtledove is in the group that have three or four, and they just keep showing up in his endless, epic sagas, recycled into different professions and settings. I guess it's just his mastery of creating plausible alternate worlds that keeps me coming back - although Eruption is more in the vein of Lucifer's Hammer and The Stand in terms of post-cataclysm-world-building.

Done for a ducat, graphic book division:

I had heard all the buzz about DC's Young Animal imprint and even seen some previews and excerpts online, so I "waited for the trade" and picked up Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye and Doom Patrol. If I were still in Seattle I'd consider "waiting for the library to get a copy" - that would have saved me a nice piece of change on these two TPBs. It wasn't that they were awful; it's just that they were a little too self-consciously edgy to be authentically good. Or maybe my expectations were just too high.

High expectations were likely the case for the other trade I waited for, Future Quest, DC's epic crossover of the Saturday morning cartoon characters from my youth. The conceit had me from the beginning: seeing all the characters from my personal Golden Age* - Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and more - share the stage and adventure together. And that part was cool - even the updating and modifying of the various characters, filling in some backstory to make sense of it all, worked well. It's just that the story itself seemed desultory. I was put in mind of nothing else beside Total Eclipse, the 1988 project that shoehorned every character published by the Eclipse company into one pedestrian story. Still, I'll probably get volume two, just for the nostalgia value. I wonder what younger readers will make of this - or have they been exposed to the characters through cable TV and the web enough for them to resonate?

On deck, word book division:

Trumpet of Conscience and Utopia for Realists are both birthday gifts that were on my get-list. I need to experience Dr. King's words in the entirety, rather than in sound bites and pull-quotes, and Bregman's book strives to get to the solution of a great underlying problem in today's world, wealth and income inequality. The Nordic Theory of Everything was a staff recommendation at out local Village Books, and Coco and I bit on this look at social change. All three of these might help make sense of the current situation.

Coco has been getting me with Houghton-Mifflin's Best American Comics collection on my birthday every year since 2006 (see below). This year she decided to add their Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy collection to that tradition, and she gave herself a running start by reaching back to grab 2015 and 2016 as well. Hoo-boy, I have my work cut out.

This book might be easier - I think I have read most of Howard Waldrop's oeuvre already, so this collection of short stories will likely be a revisit. But Waldrop is well worth revisiting, and besides, who could resist that cover? Not me, apparently.

On deck, graphic book division:

I have only dipped a toe into the world of Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo but have long wanted to dive in. Finding these phonebooks at a cool comic book store in Vancouver seemed a great way to get a whole great load of the rabbit ronin. First looks shows that each panel seems every bit as complex and gorgeous as the bits I have experienced before. Looking forward to these.

Who knew that DC's adaption of a Hanna Barbera property would become the premier source of social commentary and biting satire in the comics world? Not me - but The Flintstones seems to be just that, at least from the previews and excerpts I have read. This might be at the top of the graphic book pile.

And last but not least: Best American Comics 2017 (see above). This time around, it's edited by Ben Katchor, and I am really interested in seeing what his sensibility is like. The volume editor really does make a different - Scott McCloud's choices and style in 2014 spoke to me most clearly. We'll see how this one is.

That's the lot. I had better get to it. Who knows, I might even blog about some of these.

* "The golden age of science fiction is twelve."
~ Peter Graham

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Diamond Jubilee

So, I recently passed a milestone. (Better than a gallstone, amirite? I'm here all week.) My birthday this past week saw me hitting the big round 60.

I marked the last of my fifties with a day; for this landmark is sort of spent a whole week celebrating.

It started on Saturday last week with Geek Girl Con, the celebration of popular culture, art, and science for the female half of the population. I have attended all but one of these events since they started - I missed last year. Well, I re-upped this year, joined by perennial con pal Margaret (who cosplayed Mac, the doctor from Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries).

 Margaret, worn out and resting in Introvert Alley

Last visit I mentioned that GGC might be starting to show its age a bit; this visit I noticed that the con seemed smaller, both less-attended, with fewer vendors/exhibitors, and not as many Big Names. There was some internal staff kerfuffle earlier in the year; I am not sure if that contributed to the perceived admonishment, or if we're getting con fatigue, or what. Nonetheless, there were several bright spots - some, of course, in the cosplay:

I was thrilled to see a crossplay Jason Momoa Aquaman even before the movie is out!

Perhaps even more exciting was encountering this 80s/90s Kimiyo Hoshi version of Dr. Light! She seemed very grateful that someone recognized her...

I truncated my con attendance to one day, because Sunday I was DMing a big Dungeons and Dragon session at my old haunt, Wayward Coffeehouse. They made me feel very welcome after two years away, reserving the best table:

Here's the party of adventurers:

And here's the party of players:

Yup, after a six-year hiatus, it was the return of DM Walaka and his All-Girl Band of Murder Hoboes, renamed the Wonder Woman, Wonder Women Celebratory Campaign! It was a swell six-and-a-half hour adventure with an awesome group of creative and energetic players. Thrill, chills, and spills were all to be had, and an awesome (if I do say so myself) Unexpected Plot Twist at the end.

Fighting giant snakes!

Entering the dragon's skull!

A seriously great time.

Then Monday I was sick as a dog. Margaret called it Con Crud, and I found out she was under the weather that day as well, and that it was not uncommon for convention attendees to get sick. I was so far under the weather I'd have had to climb up to feel lousy, but it passed with a night's sleep. Disappointing that it was the perfect day for my memorial walk or bike ride, and I had to miss that.

Which left Tuesday for an adventure with Coco!

Using the power of the Nexus pass and our as yet still-friendly nearby border crossing, we headed up to Vancouver to visit a Value Village; the IKEA (to try the Swedish Veggie balls)...

... another Value Village; a comic book store; the beach; a game store; and what may be the finest vegetarian restaurant in North America, The Acorn. A fantastic day that won/t be beat for a long time.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were spent on college business in Longview, Washington. The less said about that the better, but oy vey was it depressing.

And Saturday capped off the revels with a party attended by friends I have known for up to 35 years and friends I have met since moving to Bellingham two years ago. It made me feel all George Bailey, really.

I have been told that at 60 I am now officially distinguished. I don't know about that, but I did get a senior discount at Value Village, so that's something. All in all, I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of this stuff called living. So here's to another 60 years of maybe getting it right - I promised Coco.